During the India-Pakistan War of 1965, India had seven AD Regiments were deployed in the East. This included two Territorial Army AD Regiments – one each at Calcutta and Jamshedpur and the deployment of AD Regiments was biased towards Indo- China border with five of the seven Regiments deployed in North Bengal and Assam.
Though the deployment was biased towards protecting airfields, Kalaikunda, with three combat Squadrons including one of Canberras did not have any AD Regiment when the war broke out and the AD Battery of 28 AD Regiment moved in only on the night September 6/7 from Oodlabari.
IAF carried out the first air raid in the East when No 16 Squadron equipped with Canberras carried out a two attack on the Chittagong airfield on September 71. They did not face any opposition, though one load of bombs failed to explode on the target. Both the Canberras returned safe. Following the raid by Canberras on Chittagong, No 14 Squadron PAF attacked Kalaikonda. After Pathankot, this was the second most successful PAF raid on an IAF base.
Kalaikunda was a major IAF base in the East, located SE of Calcutta. It housed two squadrons, one each of Canberras ( No 16 Sqn The Rattlers) and Hunters ( No 14 Sqn). Initially, no AAA was deployed at Kalikunda. On September 6, a Battery of 28 AD Regiment was moved from Oodlabari but all the guns had not been deployed till 7th morning. A WW II vintage radar was also located at the base to provide early warning. When the five F-86 Sabres struck the airbase, all these were caught off guard2.
The personnel at Kalaikunda AFB were jolted out their routine by the clatter of the machine gun sounds as the Sabres bore in to the attack. There could have been no worse time for the base to be caught in.
Only three ack-ack guns were in position to defend the airfield. The rest of the guns had arrived only the day before and had not yet been positioned and dug in for deployment. As the Sabres streaked over the airfield, the ack-ack opened up, erratically, as there was no time to reorganize the fire. Three guns would hardly make any difference to the AA potential of the airfield.
Air Marshal GCS Rajawar in ‘The War at Kalaikunda’3 mentions that
It was a pity that the air defence guns though deployed on the Kalaikunda airfield were not in the readiness state. In fact, their barrels had been covered with canvass covers to protect them from rain/early morning dew. It was a sad story that although the Eastern Air Command had planned and launched operational missions deep inside East Pakistan from Kalaikunda but had taken no steps at all to protect it from counter strikes from the enemy. It was quite predictable and natural for the enemy to immediately follow our trail to Kalaikunda for retaliatory action after the Chittagong attack.
The raid claimed two Canberras of No 16 Sqn IAF and four Vampires of No 24 Squadron. This was followed by a second raid by four F-86s. This time, the base was ready as the incoming PAF Sabres had been picked up the radar4.
Sqn. Ldr. “Mama” Sahni, radar officer at Kalaikunda, picked up a blip for a moment near Port Canning. He immediately alerted Wg. Cdr. Dicky Law, the CO Flying and informed him of the possibility of multiple aircraft coming in for another raid. Law, looked up his roster, two Hunters were flying a CAP to the north of Kalaikunda, taking care of Dum-Dum and Barrackpore. Law told Sahni to call this section back to Kalaikunda to intercept the incoming raid immediately.
The two Hunters took on the incoming raiders and both the pilots, Flt Lt Alfred Cooke and Flying Offr S Mamgain, were credited to have shot down a Sabre each.
The L/60 Gun detachment commanded by Naik Madali Muthu also shot down a F-86 Sabre and he was awarded the Vir Chakra for the same. His citation reads thus
Naik Madalai Muthu, who was commander of the anti-aircraft gun detachment at the Air Force base in Kalaikunda, directed the fire of his gun skillfully and effectively and shot down a Pakistani Sabre Jet on 7 September 1965. The performance of the gun detachment under this non-commissioned officer was most praiseworthy.
Madalai Muthu’s was to be last Vir Chakra awarded to AAA in the war.
- Chakravorty BC History of The Indo-Pak War 1965, History Division, Ministry of Defence, Government of India, New Delhi 1992, pp 257
- Jagan Mohan PVS and Chopra, Samir, The India-Pakistan Air War of 1965, Manohar Books, Delhi pp 178-194
- GCS Rajawar The War at Kalaikunda available at http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/ IAF/History/1965War/1071-Rajwar.html
- Jagan and Chopra pp 178-194